2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Traffic cameras, felon voting rights in Iowa face deadline

Iowa Legislature requires issues to clear hurdles by Friday

Traffic last November approaches automated traffic cameras over the Interstate 380 northbound lanes near Eighth Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids. The city’s I-380 speed cameras have not been issuing tickets since early 2017, but city officials have said they intend to start using the four interstate camera locations again and use revenue generated from the camera program hire 10 police officers. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Traffic last November approaches automated traffic cameras over the Interstate 380 northbound lanes near Eighth Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids. The city’s I-380 speed cameras have not been issuing tickets since early 2017, but city officials have said they intend to start using the four interstate camera locations again and use revenue generated from the camera program hire 10 police officers. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Forcing cities to pay the state the majority of their revenue from automated traffic camera fines could be as effective as a ban on the devices, according to the sponsor of Senate-passed prohibition.

For the third year in a row, the Senate has approved a ban on the traffic cameras used in 10 Iowa cities including Cedar Rapids, but attempts to reach agreement with the House have failed.

However, Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, believes that House File 674, which would scoop 60 percent of cities’ traffic camera revenue after expenses to deposit in a state public safety fund, might achieve his goal of shutting down what he calls “scam cams.”

“Being one that believes this is truly cities using this to generate revenue, it takes that conversation and changes it completely,” said Chapman.

He sponsored Senate File 343 banning them. It was approved 30-19.

Chapman wonders whether vendors that provide the cameras would remain interested in working with those cities and whether those cities would want to continue to handle the administrative work for a smaller slice of the pie.

The House plan would cost cities about $6.5 million a year, according to a fiscal note by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

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If that’s not enough to shut down the cameras, Chapman would like to increase the state’s share to 75 percent for cameras on interstates or state highways. That would hit Cedar Rapids hard because its speed enforcement cameras on Interstate 380 are its biggest revenue generators.

But it would answer the question Chapman and others have about whether cities install the cameras to improve public safety or to generate money, he told WHO-AM 1040 radio Monday.

The future of traffic cameras is one of the issues in play as the Legislature moves toward its self-imposed deadline of Friday for legislation passed in one chamber to be approved by a committee in the other.

Among those issues is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to restore felons’ voting rights.

The House passed House Joint Resolution 14 95-2 to restore voting rights, but the debate made clear some representatives want to exclude some felons — murderers, rapists, child molesters, for example — from ever having their voting rights restored.

“We need to have the discussion,” said House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake. “Those things have to be fleshed out.”

In the Senate, Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, isn’t sure there are enough votes on the Judiciary Committee to pass such a resolution.

“The biggest concern I hear is that people want to know if we are restoring voting rights for all felons, no matter what the crime? Or do we need to create a little more nuance and decide that (for) certain crimes you never get your voting rights back?” Whitver asked.

Although it already has met Friday’s deadline, another of Reynolds’ priorities — making birth control available without a prescription — is one that has “some challenges that we’ve got to get worked out,” Upmeyer said.

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The Senate approved Senate File 513 42-6 to allow pharmacies to dispense “self-administered hormonal contraceptive” without a prescription. However, House Human Resources Committee Chairwoman Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, isn’t sure there are the votes to pass the similar House File 727 on the full House floor.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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